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Government approves National Environment and Sanitation Policy

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The government of Ghana, last week Thursday approved the 2007 revised National Environment and Sanitation Policy for the Water and Sanitation Sector of the country.

The policy, which came into force in 1999, was operational until 2006 when the need to review it arose. However, the improved document needed Cabinet’s approval before it could become operational.

Disclosing this at an Annual Review Workshop of WaterAid Ghana, an international non-governmental organisation and  partner organisations, Mr. Kweku Quansah, a programme officer of the Environmental Health and Sanitation Directorate (EHSD) of the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD), said the approval was indeed good news for all in the water and sanitation sector.

He explained that the approval is “good news for all sector players because every agency is supposed to work with a policy and alongside with policy, you will be able to make your issues clear.”

According to Mr. Quansah, the policy had to be amended, because it was realised that the 1999 document did not capture some very important issues in the sector.

“One of the key issues we missed was the growth and poverty strategy – GPRS 1 and GPRS 2, then the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and complex issues like sanitation, like the plastics and capacity building issues that we could not capture,” he divulged to this reporter in an interview.

He revealed that in order to have the policy document reviewed, a lot of zonal consultations were done with a host of stakeholders, after which it was sent to Cabinet for its approval.

But the approved policy alone is not enough to bring change into the water and sanitation sector, he stressed.

Mr. Kweku Quansah elucidated that a National Environmental Sanitation Action and Strategic Plan as well as Strategic Environmental Sanitation Investment Plan need to be validated.

This he revealed, will involve all stakeholders known as the National Environmental Sanitation Policy Coordinating Council (NESPoCC), a sort of advisory body in the country, in a consultative meeting, which is tentatively scheduled for April 8, 2010.

The meeting will scrutinise the National Policy, look out for omissions and advise appropriately and corrections made before the plans are outdoored. “The policy has been approved so we don’t need to touch it but we have to develop plans from the policy,” he explained.

He said “Once you have the plans, you have the investment plan, then you will be able to cost us, how much it will cost to deliver sanitation in the country, and as a lead Ministry in the country for sanitation delivery services, I think it is a good thing; now that the policy is passed we can now build on it, then validate and outdoor the two documents – the National Environment and Sanitation Action and Strategic Plan and the Sanitation Investment Plan.”

The EHSD programme officer continued that these two plans will help in achieving the targets that have been set, which include growth and poverty reduction, the medium term development framework and the attainment of the MDGs within the sanitation sector.

Touching on other steps that government has taken that will inure to the benefit of the sanitation sector, Mr. Quansah announced that political commitment has increased significantly “and once the political commitment has increased, then you have the goodwill of the politicians to help you implement the policy, because the policy is just trying to increase coverage of sanitation services.”

He said all cities in Ghana are filthy, people do not have places of convenience, and people depend on open spaces to ease themselves, which are the issues that are going to be tackled in the policy.

To him, the political will is there and only a little financial push is needed to achieve most of the targets of the sector within the MDGs and other development agenda.

By Edmund Smith-Asante

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